By Jill VanderWoude, Advancement Associate
What a gorgeous weekend we had. 65 degrees in the middle of the winter is as lovely as it is unusual. I am sure most of us spent considerable time outside on Saturday and Sunday, and for good reason!
Not only is it good for us adults to get outside, it’s our responsibility to get our children outside too. Warm weather is a convenient motivator, but what happens when seasonable winter weather returns? Are we getting our kids outside?
Studies show that kids who play outside are smarter, happier, more attentive, and less anxious than kids who spend more time indoors. Clearly, time spent outside is a good thing. It is worrisome then, that the average American child is said to spend 4 to 7 minutes a day in unstructured play outdoors, and over 7 hours a day in front of a screen. (https://childmind.org/article/why-kids-need-to-spend-time-in-nature/ )
Yikes! That is alarming news. We remember playing outside, right? I cherish my childhood memories of building forts, hunting for things in the dirt and being a spy in the woods. I wanted that same childhood for my children, so when they were little, I made sure to send them outdoors. It’s true – it is work! When our kids are very little, we have to work at it and commit to spending time together outside. You have to get dirty and loud in order to model how to play. Once they get the hang of it you can sit back and watch it happen. It is a beautiful thing.
However, as they get older, play changes and so do their interests. I’ve noticed with my teens that they resist going outside. Don’t they remember when every day was an outdoor adventure? Making mud pies and jumping in puddles may no longer be entertaining, but I still insist they head outside in search of new adventures.
Why is it so important? Well, there are numerous apparent reasons: it’s good for your health, builds imagination, encourages risk taking and increases one’s socialization. Moreover though, spending time outside is the best way to investigate God’s creation.
“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12:7-10
In England, they have eliminated from certain dictionaries a number of words related to the natural world to order to make room for more “modern” words. A book entitled The Lost Words was written in response to this. It is a collection of poems about these very important words, now removed. Here is an excerpt from the introduction:
“Once upon a time, words began to vanish from the language of children. They disappeared so quietly at first almost no one noticed – fading away like water on stone. The words were those that children used to name the natural world around them: acorn, adder, bluebell, bramble, conker – gone. Fern, heather, kingfisher, otter, raven, willow wren…all of them gone. The words were becoming lost: no longer vivid in children’s voices, no longer alive in their stories.”
It is upsetting to think that the next generation may not appreciate or know God’s world from firsthand experience. Perhaps they will only have read about it from a computer screen or seen a clip of nature from an app on their phone. Harvard Medical School recently published the following affirmation of outdoor play. “If a child grows up never walking in the woods, digging in soil, seeing animals in their habitat, climbing a mountain, playing in a stream, or staring at the endless horizon of an ocean, they may never really understand what there is to be lost. The future of our planet depends on our children; they need to learn to appreciate it.” https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/6-reasons-children-need-to-play-outside-2018052213880
So the next time you look outside and wonder if it’s worth venturing out, consider this. Whether it’s covered in snow, dripping with rain, whistling with wind or filled with the sun’s rays; this is our Father’s world!
*All pictures used in this blog are from The Lost Words book by Robert Macfarlane & Jackie Morris